Drishti: Looking Out. Looking In.

With so much going on around us, it can be so easy to become distracted. It can be a challenge sometimes to focus on one thing when there are hundreds of thoughts running through your head and so many things going on outside of ourselves. It can be overwhelming at times. I often think how hard it can be just going to the grocery store and trying to pick out a cereal. Have you seen how many cereal brands and types there are? Try picking out a toothpaste! Oh my! Even trying to decide on a cereal or toothpaste can be such an overwhelming experience that it is just easier to walk away. But this just doesn’t happen in the grocery store. What about in other parts of our lives? Think about the many distractions that you face on a daily bases. How does one focus and calm the mind?

In the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practice, there are four main elements to be aware of: Ujjayi Breath, the Bandhas, Vinyasa, and Drishti. For the next four blog entries, I will focus on these elements. This week I will discuss on the last one: Drishti. Drishti refers to your gaze or focus. In one aspect of the gaze, you are physically looking outward, but the real looking is internally: to go inside of yourself. This inward gaze creates a stronger and deeper connection with yourself. The drishti is designed to bring balance to your internal and external practice. Externally, when you are in a yoga pose, your gaze can simply follow the stretch. Let’s try this pose…..

Extended Side Angle Pose
Come to a Warrior Two pose with your right foot/hand forward. To move into the Extended Side Angle Pose, start reaching out toward the wall in front of you. This will create an angled upper body. (Try to keep the lower part of the body stable so that you do not collapse into your knee or hip.) When you cannot extended any further, lower your right hand toward the floor and reach your left hand toward the ceiling. (The right hand does not necessarily need to touch the floor. The fingertips and can just reach down toward the floor. You want to keep your heart open to the left side of the room.) Turn your gaze upward and look at your left hand. This is your drishti.

Now, although you are looking up at your fingers, allow the gaze to look past your fingers…toward the ceiling, toward the sky, toward the heavens. This distant gazing practice is really a meditative practice that keeps you focused and in the moment. While in the posture, the internal gazing may be about your awareness of your breath, or noticing if there is any tension in the body. (After you do the right side of this pose, feel free to do the other side.)

There are nine drishti points you can use while practicing yoga: tip of the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, hand, toes, far to the right, far to the left, thumbs, sky. Again, these are physical places to set your eyes, but the main idea is to look inward. It can be an effective practice to calm and still the mind when we are faced with the many external distractions. Try adding drishtis to your next yoga practice this week.

Next blog entry will focus on Ujjayi Breath.

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